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Mexico Thursday Notebook

John Dagys’ Thursday notebook from Mexico…

Photo: John Dagys

***Numerous drivers and support personnel have been delayed getting into Mexico City due to heavy rains and flooding, which closed the airport last night. Nearly a dozen drivers, including Nick Tandy, Ford’s Harry Tincknell and Andy Priaulx, Alex Lynn of G-Drive Racing and others were on a British Airways flight that was diverted to Cancun.

***Other flights were sent to Acapulco, also for overnight stays. After further delays due to airport congestion, the Cancun-diverted flight is not expected to arrive into Mexico City until the early morning hours of Friday, more than 24 hours late.

***A revised weekend schedule, made prior to the travel dramas, will benefit those who are delayed, as on-track action does not begin until late Friday afternoon, with a 90-minute Free Practice 1 at 5:15 p.m. local time. FP2 is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, with FP3 at 1:45 p.m. and qualifying starting at 5:50 p.m. The six-hour race is set for Sunday at 12 p.m..

***Showers and thunderstorms are forecast for the entire weekend, which will likely impact at least some of the sessions and potentially the race itself.

***A total of 26 cars are set for the fifth round of the season, the lowest car count since the 2014 season finale at Interlagos, which also had 26 entries. As expected, ByKolles has not made the trip, and is not expected for any of the remaining races, with Signatech Alpine consolidating to a single-car effort in LMP2, although it has its second car on-site.

***Hopes of additional one-off entries later this season appear slim. Tockwith Motorsport, which had confirmed Shanghai and Bahrain with its Ligier JS P217 Gibson, has pulled the plug on its LMP2 program, reportedly due to a falling out between team owner Simon Moore and the Hanson family, which owns the cars, including an Audi R8 LMS that was apparently used without permission in a music video.

***A number of drivers who missed the Nürburgring round due to the clashing Formula E double-header in New York City are also back, including Nico Prost and Nelson Piquet Jr. (Vaillante Rebellion), Sam Bird (AF Corse) and Jean-Eric Vergne (CEFC Manor TRS Racing).

***Rebellion is back to full-strength on the crew front, with its two senior members having been re-instated following an internal one-race suspension for the No. 13 car, which was excluded at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for illegal bodywork modifications. Team manager Bart Hayden stepped into a leading operation role of both cars at the Nürburgring.

***Every GTE-Pro car has received power and weight adjustments, in the second round of the new-for-2017 automated Balance of Performance system. While the adjustments are minor, compared to the last round at the Nürburgring, the biggest changes will be with the FIA’s atmospheric pressure adjustments, used to compensate normally aspirated and turbocharged cars. The system is now done in real-time.

***Mexico marks the first race with Hisatake Murata in his new position as Toyota Gazoo Racing Team President. Murata-san had previously been responsible for powertrain development. “The team in Higashi-Fuji and Cologne has worked very hard since Nürburgring to prepare our TS050 Hybrids for Mexico and the other non-European circuits, which suit our car quite well,” he said.

***Toyota has yet to confirm its plans for 2018, with indications that the Japanese manufacturer could take part in a limited three-race program around the 24 Hours of Le Mans and races at Spa-Francorchamps and Fuji Speedway.

***Representatives from the FIA and ACO will hold briefings tomorrow afternoon, which is expected to reveal details into likely changes for the WEC next year. A team principal’s briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m., with a media briefing for 3:30 p.m.

***Numerous rumors have spread through the paddock, with a shift to a winter calendar among the most talked-about prospects. A shortened schedule, potentially using sea-freight only for transportation between races, has also been discussed. The concept of a “LMP2-plus” car with DPi-like bodywork and more powerful engines, is also rumored.

***Porsche returns to the WEC paddock for the first time since announcing its withdrawal from LMP1 competition, which will come at the end of the season. Andre Lotterer, however, said it hasn’t changed their approach for the remainder of year. “You never give up,” he told Sportscar365. “You do your job and that’s how it goes sometimes as a works driver. You are in a fortunate position to be there and race for a great manufacturer.”

***Lotterer admitted last month’s round at the Nürburgring, where he was forced out of maiden victory with Porsche due to team orders, was a tough pill to swallow. “That’s how it goes,” he said. “I will keep pushing and our performance at the Nürburgring was great. The team bosses are making these decisions on behalf of Porsche, and if the sister car has a retirement and a Toyota wins the point gap could shrink a lot. I can’t hide it’s hard for us. We race to win and that’s what drives us, especially for me. I’m new in the team and would like a victory with the team.”

***Mexico marks the first of the five flyaway rounds for the WEC, which sees the globe-trotting championship make a complete tour of the world between now and the November’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has produced the following infographic about the journey ahead.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John


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